When You're Married to Your Startup, What's Left for Your Spouse?
The singular focus you need for startup success can make you neglect what really matters.
"This is the hardest year of our life," I told my husband as I collected my things to go to work. "Hey, you look good, did you get a haircut?"
"Yeah, I got it cut two days ago," he said, "I was waiting for you to notice." It had been another in a long stretch of crazy busy work weeks, and I had barely slowed down long enough to really look at the man I share my life with. In that one moment, I felt like the worst wife ever.
When I signed on to work at a startup, I was warned about how it would affect my life, and so was he. I would be entering an obsessive and intense part of my career like no other. He agreed to see how it played out and to support me along the way.
He knew my work ethic. He'd seen this before. The late nights going to events, meeting clients, getting advice from friends. I'd meet with everyone I ever knew. I'd wake up at 5 AM trying to piece together an idea. And I would wake up early on the weekends and go bang out two, three hours of work. The free time I had, I spent talking to our teenage daughters or playing with our three-year-old son in the park. He got me for a few moments in between.
We do have dates, once a week. My husband doesn't drink much at all, but he does love hard cider. We spend one hour a week at the Cider House in downtown Peekskill. Sue is the bartender. She always finds a way to keep us for one more round of drinks, which gives us ten more minutes to talk. Sometimes we just sit and sip and stare at each other, too tired to speak but happy to know the other one is there.
We don't talk specifics about our jobs. But he does support the wide range of emotions that have come up since I accepted my new gig. He celebrates when I am feeling confident. And he picks me up when I'm feeling insecure and throwing myself a pity party. He hopes my passion and energy for my job will extend past working hours, but to be honest, I often run out of gas by the time the train pulls into Peekskill, the small town where we live.
I need to refuel in ways that I didn't before. I need a night to "Netflix and chill," except it's literally watching Netflix and chilling. I want and need to be alone more than I ever have before. I have not been hiking or to yoga class or any of the things that keep me balanced. I just keep going, like an Energizer Bunny. And he is forced to occasionally change my batteries.
I wonder how he feels. What's going on in his head? How hard it must be to live with me right now. I know, he gets it. But secretly does he wish he'd met and married someone less ambitious?
We all talk about how in this new culture, you can be working from anywhere. Work is not over when you leave the building. Anywhere can instantly become your office. I'm available 24/7 lately. My laptop is my lover.
My husband is working just as hard, but his priorities remain family first. And I would love to tell you I have followed suit, but it's not the case. While he holds down the fort, I go out and win the war.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
My plan is to be successful and make enough money that he never needs to work again. It was never about money for me, but money equals freedom and if that's what we need to relax, then I will push to get us there.
Along the way to seeking success, I have recently started to be happy as well. Every ride on the daily rollercoaster of my new career is a thrill and I end most days determined and anxious to jump on the ride again. It's addictive. One more email, one more meeting, one more phone call could bring that extra win I need.
Last time we went out, I truly had nothing left to give on date night. So we just held hands and sipped cider. He stared at the TV above the bar, watching Tower Heist (a solid film for escapism, by the way). I took a picture of him in that moment. He took a picture of me: no make-up, exhausted and yet serene. We see each other. And yes, this is going to be a hard year. We will survive this.
I always say, "All the work will be worth it." I usually said this about my job. Now I am saying it more regarding my life. Everything could fall apart in my career, but this man, I hope, will be waiting to pick me up from that train and take me home, time and time again.
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